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  • Writer's pictureBrian Foley

Houston Criminal Defense Attorney - Illegal Traffic Stops for DWI in Houston, Texas

Illegal Traffic Stops for DWI Cases in Houston, Texas: Understanding the Legal Landscape


Traffic stops play a crucial role in enforcing laws and ensuring public safety. However, it is essential to understand the boundaries of these stops and the legal requirements for initiating them. In Houston, Texas, recent court cases have shed light on the issue of illegal traffic stops in DWI cases. By examining the rulings in Whren v. U.S., Klare v. State, and State v. Hardin, we can gain insight into the circumstances under which traffic stops may be deemed unjustified. Let's delve into the details.

Whren v. U.S.: Defining a Seizure of 'Persons' within the Fourth Amendment

In Whren v. U.S., the United States Supreme Court established that the temporary detention of individuals during a traffic stop constitutes a seizure of 'persons' under the Fourth Amendment. This means that even brief and limited stops are subject to the constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Klare v. State: Examining an Unjustified Investigatory Stop

In Klare v. State, the defendant was convicted of DWI based on an investigatory stop initiated by a police officer. The officer noticed the defendant's car parked behind a strip shopping center facing a 24-hour convenience store at approximately 2:30 a.m. The officer proceeded to investigate but lost sight of the defendant. After about 15 seconds, he encountered a car he believed to be the same one and arrested the defendant.

However, the court found the officer's reasons for the stop insufficient to establish reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Factors such as the time of day, closed businesses, previous burglaries in the area, and a concern for community caretaking were deemed insufficient grounds for the investigatory stop. Consequently, the court determined that the officer lacked justification for conducting the stop.

State v. Hardin: Clarifying Traffic Violations and Reasonable Suspicion

In State v. Hardin, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals addressed the issue of traffic violations and reasonable suspicion in DWI cases. The court held that the Texas Transportation Code, specifically § 545.060, defines one offense rather than two. This ruling overruled previous cases, including Leming v. State, and implicitly overturned other Court of Appeals cases. As a result, officers must observe unsafe movement outside a single lane to have reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop under the statute.

Implications for Illegal Traffic Stops in Houston, Texas:

The rulings in these cases highlight the importance of adhering to constitutional protections and establishing reasonable suspicion when initiating a traffic stop in DWI cases. Police officers must have a justifiable basis supported by specific and articulable facts to initiate an investigatory stop. Factors such as the time of day, closed businesses, or general community caretaking concerns alone may not meet the threshold of reasonable suspicion.

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